Shepherd November 2017
The Invisible World of the Bodiless Powers
The Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky of Jordanville, + 1976 A.D.
THE Old Testament sacred book of Genesis tells us of the origin of all that is, and it begins with the words, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1). The highest and most authoritative expounders of the word of God explain to us that by this word heaven we must understand the invisible world, the immaterial one, the spiritual world, and by the word earth, we must understand the visible world, the physical one, the material one. It is in exactly this train of thought that in the Symbol of our Faith (the Creed) we call God, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
This invisible world, this spiritual world, figuratively called heaven, is the world of the Incorporeal Powers, the world of the angels, which God created before the creation of the visible, physical and material world.
In honour of these Honourable Bodiless Powers of Heaven, headed by the Archistrategus Michael as their supreme commander, our holy Church from ancient times inaugurated a feast of some distinction, which is solemnly celebrated on 8th November according to our Orthodox calendar.
In the beginning all these bodiless powers, or angels, were made good spirits, full of great perfections. But behold, one of the very highest of the angels, Morning Star, whose beauty was like that of the morning Dayspring, instead of offering up praise to God, glorifying Him for His perfections as his Creator, fell in love with himself and permitted himself the prideful thought that he in his perfection need not defer one whit to God, and that he was equal with God. And this prideful thought was the cause of his swift fall from the heights of heaven to the depths of the gloom of Hades. It so distorted and so deformed His beauty, that of a person truly like unto God, that in a moment from being the most exalted and most supremely perfect of God’s creatures he was made the most repulsive, the most loathsome being. The heavenly powers, that is the other incorporeal angels, repelled by the besotting pridefulness of Morning Star, hurled him down into the most profound darkness.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Morning Star, son of the dayspring!, the holy prophet sorrowfully cries out to him, thy pridefulness is cast down to the lowermost place. For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God ... I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down into Hades, into the depths of the pit (Esaias 14:12-15).
“Who is like unto God? Who is equal to God?” triumphantly cried the Archistategus of the heavenly powers, casting down Morning Star. So it is that he is given the glorious name Michael, which means Who is like unto God, and the Morning Star becomes Satan.
Thus, even at the very dawn of the history of the universe, in the spiritual world, before the appearance of the material world, the first rebellion against lawful Divine authority came about, the first revolution, which then had so many numberless calamitous and sorrowful consequences.
Countless multitudes of the angelic hosts, the Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, many-eyed Cherubim and six-winged dread Seraphim surround the throne of God crying with unceasing lips the ever-repeated doxology, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. All these angels of God, having remained faithful to God, are the proclaimers and fulfillers of the will of God, as is demonstrated by their very name, for the word angel means messenger. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Heb. 1:14), says the holy Apostle Paul concerning them. And from sacred history, both in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, we know of a multitude of occasions when the angels ministered in the work of the salvation of man, who was created later than they were. The angels are shown to be instruments of God’s providence regarding His purposes within the communities of mankind. As our holy Church teaches, they are entrusted with safeguarding towns, kingdoms, districts, monasteries, churches and people, the spiritual and the worldly, both alike. And the angels serve as the instruments of God’s providence with regard to separate, individual people as well. Each of the faithful receives his own particular angel, who abides near him and protects him from every evil, and for this cause he is called the Guardian Angel.
But Satan, cast out of heaven, did not remain alone, but he drew after him into the abyss of his fall a great multitude of incorporeal powers, who like him were thus made evil spirits, the evil demons, the powers of darkness, who always oppose God and His all-good and providential purposes.
Blinded in his prideful and ferocious malice (evil is always blind!), Satan, with the help of the evil spirits subject to him, began a violent warfare against God and those honourable bodiless powers of heaven who had remained faithful to God. And when the first people were created by God, he then, having led them astray through pride, began to teach them to break the commandments of God, so that he might draw them away from God and entice them into his service, instead of that of God.
So, even from that time, from the very beginning of the history of the world, everything that comes to pass in the world can be explained by nothing other than this unremitting warfare, this never curtailed opposition of Satan and the spirits of darkness that serve him, to God and to His radiant angelic powers.
Once and for all we must remember and bear in mind that God desires the salvation of man and does everything for his salvation, but Satan, having stupidly condemned himself to perdition, thirsts for the ruin of man, and he does everything so that he [man] might perish.
The whole history of the world consists in this: the warfare between the radiant and the dark powers for the soul of man, that crown of God’s creation. And when we accept this rigorist point of view, everything that has happened in the history of mankind becomes completely clear for us and understandable, without fomenting any uncertainty or perplexity. One can only marvel at the spiritual blindness of those who do not comprehend this, or rather do not wish to comprehend it, and who give everything their own individual explanation and interpretation, nothing like a proper explanation, something which, as it deviates from the truth, always grows foggy.
Satan has always maintained his battle against God so as to enslave man under his authority, but in the times which we are living through, as never before, this dreadful action of the satanic powers is sensed more and more in the world, and before our eyes it is spreading wider and wider.
But this must not lead us to be enervated or let our spirits fall, because we know from the Scriptures, that it was necessary that all this should be, and we should thus be led to spiritual awakening and to being vigilant about ourselves. We do not continually speak and write about this so as to instill fear and faintheartedness in our souls, or that we should lose heart, but rather that our eyes be opened to the seriousness of the situation, that we be warned, that we be prompted to greater efforts in the battle for our souls against satanic delusion, against their being impudently clawed into the power of Satan.
He who remains silent about this, and does not like to speak up, consciously or unconsciously makes one cause with Satan and with his henchmen.
By what paths does Satan find entry into the soul of man and enslave him to himself, making man an instrument of his?
First and foremost, through that vice, by which Satan transformed himself from being the most exalted and perfect creation of God into the enemy of God, through pride and selfishness.
After the fall into sin of our first parents, this vice has always been rooted in man, but in our times it lets itself be known particularly powerfully, particularly often, and it displays itself mockingly and vividly.
“I ... I ... I ...” that’s all you hear now from many people, and especially from those who consider themselves spiritual or political leaders, and strive for pre-eminence and authority over others without tolerating any rivals or competitors. And nothing so depresses them as the loss of popularity and of the glory of men. This they live through with extreme chagrin, and they are ready to destroy, to wipe o the face of the earth, the persons they regard as guilty in this respect. This “I ... I ...” so overshadows their spiritual eyes, that they begin to be incapable of perceiving all the truth, as it really is, assessing everything only from the point of view of their own particular egotistical and egocentric interests. Such people are easily made sowers of evil and abettors of Satan, oftentimes not noticing themselves whom they are serving.
Slyness or insincerity is found closely bonded with prideful selfishness, which compels a person to think or say one thing, and to do another. This vice is also extraordinarily prevalent in our times, which might, for the most part, be called evil (crafty) times. In this regard one must remember that it is Satan who bears the name “the evil (crafty) one.” It is precisely Satan that the words of the Lord’s Prayer, deliver us from the evil one, have in mind. Craftiness (evil) and insincerity tie a man to Satan.
Finally, it is not possible that we should fail to turn our attention to the excessiveness of the intensification in our evil days of the particularly acute passion for judging, gossip and calumny, a passion which nowadays spares no one, even persons of the highest standing and those deserving of every respect. The hierarch (Saint) Theophan, the recluse of Vysha, speaks eloquently of the source of this pernicious passion, which dislocates good human relationships and poisons life; he says: “the spirit of criticism about everything clings, and presents everything under a gloomy guise of lawlessness and perniciousness ... And at the same time the person who judges is himself ready for activities that are not good (but only if no one can observe them!), and unavoidably he establishes a way forward which is not good, a certain attitude to things. Thereafter he, as it were, judges and criticizes, so that the feeling of righteousness within him, which has been abused and stifled, might be compensated for by attacks upon others, even though these attacks might be unjust.”
Caustic and wounding slander, which oftentimes manage to morally destroy a man are these anything other than genuine satanic acts? In our days, who does not now and then offer sacrifice to such slander, sometimes in revenge when disappointed of some reckless aspiration or because of the actual exposure of some transgression? Satan is red up with this sort of calumny, and for that reason is called the devil, which by interpretation in our language means the Calumniator.
Observe: all these destructive characteristics and attributes tie the unhappy man who has yielded to them to Satan; they separate him from God and make him a stooge and pitiful instrument of God’s enemy, Satan, the devil.
Also it was not so long ago that we learned by hearsay that there exists a secretive cult of Satan, a sect of devil-worshippers, who hold “Black Masses.” And so, in our times, the “hidden” has become “open.” [Bear in mind this was written in the 1960s, more innocent times than our own transl.] Satanists now hardly bother to hide themselves, and at least some of them dress themselves up, openly and impudently being presented on radio and television and enticing everyone to their rituals. Depictions of Satan are now shamelessly displayed in public places in towns and villages, in restaurants; in “progressive” schools, students’ clothes bearing the name Satan are frequently allowed, as also in a whole range of contemporary products. And in a word everywhere our eyes are offended. Satan is thus being more powerfully propagandized and popularized.
So, we must clearly understand in what a dreadful time we live. This is not to be wondered at. It always had to be! But all the same we cannot but be horrified. Yet there are others, blinded ones, because through all this they remain indifferent, as if they habitually notice none of this or consider it as completely normal. Thus they are gradually, imperceptibly pulled into the orbit of those who spread satanic influence throughout the world, into a satanic environment and atmosphere.
And what more can one say about those “Christian” ministers who, under the influence of the satanists themselves, attend satanic organizations or even associate with them? See, we have lived even unto this!
There is also one further horrible temptation of our times, which it is impossible not to bring to mind.
It is indispensable that we obey lawful authority, whether that of the Church or of the state. The first to rebel against the lawful authority of God, the rst revolutionary, was Satan himself, who introduced a dreadful disintegration and disharmony within the perfect creation of God, and engendered evil. It is then understandable that the holy Apostle Paul informs the Christian: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God (Rom. 13:1-2).
But how can this be if the power is in the hands of satanists? That is why one should not understand the words of the holy Apostle Paul quoted above literally, unreservedly, as so many nowadays try to interpret them. For a right interpretation of these words one needs to turn to the authority of the holy Fathers of the Church. And see, for example, how Saint John Chrysostom interprets these words: “Is every ruler then elected by God? This I did not say, the Apostle answers. Nor am I speaking of individual rulers but about the power itself. For that there should be rulers, and some rule and others be ruled ... this, I say, is the work of God’s wisdom. Here in general the Apostle makes a judgment about the existence of power, because, anarchy everywhere is an evil and becomes the cause of disorder.
Saint Isidore of Pelusium explains these words of the holy Apostle, adding depth to this thought: “Why in truth do we say that actually we consider the power, that is the primacy and royal authority, is ordained of God, but if there is some evil-doing lawless person, delighting in that power, we do not support him as one ordained by God, but we say that we should not permit him to vomit forth this evil, as did Pharaoh, and in such a case subject him to extreme punishment, and chasten as one who deserves severity, as the king of Babylon chastened the Hebrews."
The holy Apostles themselves gave us a graphic example of how to react if the power is not in the hands of the servants of God. When, in the Jewish world, the highest spiritual authority, the Sanhedrin, with the high priests at its head, forbade them to speak and to teach in the name of Jesus, they forthrightly convicted them of guilt, explaining: Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye (Acts 4:19), and again, We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:9).
We know that the Antichrist, at the end of time, will exhibit illusory lawful power over all mankind, as a universal ruler, the spiritual and political head of a world state and of a new false church within it, and he will demand for himself full obedience and subjugation from everyone, as if his rule were founded lawfully, dealing with all who are disobedient as with rebels.
For everyone it is of the uttermost importance to learn and be instructed, having the narrative clear within oneself, that although the principle of power is from God, that is far from accepting that every power and every ruler is from God, for Satan himself sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light, and his servitors take on the appearance of servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15). For this reason one must always bear in mind the warning of the holy Apostle: See then that we walk circumspectly, and, have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Eph. 5:15, 11).
Behind the deceptively attractive appearances of our times, more than in times past there is very often hidden a “disorder” invisible to a superficial viewing. It is the world of the powers of darkness, inspired by Satan, who are already prepared to engage with God, with His faithful and radiant angelic powers, and with all truly-believing Christians, in a last and decisive battle, because Satan feels that he hath but a short time (Rev. 12:12).
Let us not therefore delude ourselves and light-mindedly be deceived, lest we be found in the number of those unhappy ones, who worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark on the forehead, or in the hand (Rev. 14:9), and who thereafter will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb (v. 10), and along with the beast and the false prophet be cast into a lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev. 19:20).
With God’s help and with the assistance of our Guardian Angel, let us in every way strive to preserve in purity our spiritual chastity, guarding ourselves from all converse, even the most minimal contact, with the dark bodiless powers and with all their ministers, so that joyfully and with pure hearts we might meet our Lord and Saviour, Who shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead, in the company of the radiant, honourable bodiless powers of heaven, when He comes, as He Himself promised, in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him (Matt. 25:31).
Behold, I come quickly, He tells us through His wondrous seer of mysteries, and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according to his work (Rev. 22:12).
Blessed, in truth blessed is the one, who can sincerely cry out from his whole heart, “Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Amen.
Shepherd August 2011
HOW SHOULD We keep this Dormition fast?
By the Blessed & Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky of Jordanville
THE FOLLOWING HOMILY is something of a period piece, written as it was over fifty years ago. However, although a few references may strike readers as dated, there is much of spiritual worth in the Archbishop’s words. Indeed, the state of the Orthodox diaspora and the mentality of its peoples has not greatly altered since Arch- bishop wrote this work. If that mentality has altered, and if the world has changed, it is sadly in both cases much to the worse. The Archbishop’s words are more pertinent now than when he penned them. Our readers will notice, and some might be offended by, his constant references to the Russian peoples, but one must bear several things in mind. First and most basically, he was a Bishop of the Russian Church addressing his flock of Russian people, mostly emigrés, which at that point probably comprised very few non-Russians. He is addressing them in terms to which they would respond. And take particular notice how carefully he phrases his expression. He never speaks of “Russian Orthodox people,” but always of “Orthodox Russian people.” There has been a tendency, one unfortunately greatly augmented in recent years with the euphoria in some quarters over the “re-united” (actually more-than-ever disunited) Russian Church, to represent Russian Orthodoxy as something essentially distinct from, and, grotesquely, even superior to, the Orthodoxy of other peoples. Few are the hierarchs and Church leaders in the Russian Church today who would have the sensitivity of Archbishop Averky to address the Orthodox Russian people, rather than the Russian Orthodox people. And, although his words are addressed to each of us as individuals, yet we can only bemoan the fact that his teaching was not heeded by the “uniting parts of the Russian Church” in 2007, which now so heartily congratulate themselves on their “well-being,” but have glossed over the need for real repentance.
TODAY, 1st August, according to our Orthodox calendar, we set out upon the Dormition Fast. For us it serves as a spiritual preparation for the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, imitating her own fast, by which she prepared herself for her departure from this earthly life, and it lasts for two whole weeks.
Last year, 1959 [this sermon was first given on 1st/14th August, 1960 - ed.], the Assembly of Hierarchs declared this present year, 1960, a year of repentance. In connection with this, we have for a long time been considering reminding all the Orthodox Russian people of the Appeal of the Pastoral Conference, which was convened this year at the Holy Trinity Monastery:
“The Fast of the Dormition of the Theotokos stands before us,
by which customarily we prepare for the Great Feast of the Dormition
of the Most Holy Theotokos. Do we all always observe this fast in all its
strictness, do we all prepare and commune of the holy Mysteries of Christ
during this fast? The Mother of God weeps for us, having a presentiment
of the dread punishment of God, which we bring upon ourselves by our
own lack of concern, our own lack of repentance, our own stoney lack
of feeling. In this year of repentance, let us now observe this fast before
the Dormition as one of general preparation of all the people, so that we
might worthily approach the Communion of the holy Mysteries of Christ
on the feast of the Dormition. It is to this that our Pastoral Conference
now calls the Orthodox Russian people” (See Pravoslavnaya Rus’ - No 12, 15th / 28th June, 1960).
But what of us? Are we addressing everyone in this appeal or not? Are we entering upon this fast as our Holy Church teaches us, with increased prayers, with all-round abstinence from the passions both of soul and of the body, with the labours of true repentance? Will we prepare as is proper and as is appointed, and will we apply ourselves with feelings of heartfelt contrition, with a firm intention to correct our life, for the great Mysteries (sacraments) of Confession and Holy Communion?
Before all else, let us take a clear account of ourselves with that certain truthfulness, such as pertains to all healthy minded people; then following this, let us resolve to change our life from the very root for the better, upon which depends the whole course of our future, both here in this earthly life, and, what is more important, there in that life eternal which we all await.
It is true that, glory be to God, many of us, Orthodox Russian people abroad, make such preparation. They do so every year in Great Lent, and some do so in the other fasts, among which the Dormition Fast is numbered. But is this preparation, as it is sometimes done simply by received custom, by tradition, as something inherited from pious forebears, always a real preparation? - that is, is it really repentance, which is what is required of us, what God awaits from us?
Can one really call it “preparation” to receive the dread Mysteries of Christ, when one comes late at the very start of the Divine Liturgy, expecting confession during the time of the Liturgy itself, and thus requiring the priestly ministers either to break off from serving or (if it is a concelebration) not to take part? Can one really call it “preparation” when it is done in a purely mechanical way without any deep self examination, without the self-examination which is required by the Apostle’s injunction (1 Cor. 11:28)?
How many come to confession nowadays without sufficient examination of their interior world, and even, as they themselves often openly inform the confessor, without knowing what they have to repent of. “I am sinful, like everyone else,” or “I am sinful, having the usual human sins,” they will customarily say, without the necessary understanding of the whole depth and weight of their sins, and, it follows, without the intention to leave off from, or change, their sinful life. And when they hear the prayer of absolution, they assume that all that is required has been done, and that with a conscience at peace they may approach the Holy Chalice, and then equally at peace, without any interior conflict within themselves, they continue with the sinful life to which they had formerly become habituated.
All this is not that true repentance, which the Kindhearted Lord, the God of those who repent, awaits, desiring that the sinner turn away from his path of transgression.
True repentance presupposes before all else a painstaking self-examination; an attentive scrutiny of one’s conscience, of one’s interior world, by means of setting against it the law of God; an assessment of one’s sinfulness, without those tiny quotas of some sort of self-justification; it presupposes brokenness of heart on account of one’s sins and a decisive rejection of them, united with a rm intention to make amends for one’s sins by the good deeds which are contrary to them, and not to repeat those sins any more.
“Repentance is a contract with God for the correction of life,”
says that great instructor of the spiritual life, the Venerable John of the
Ladder (Step 5). So, where there is no intention to correct one’s life for
the better in a fundamental way, there is no true repentance. The Greek
word itself, metania, which has been handed down to us without the
slightest shadow of change of meaning, and which is expressed in our
word ‘repentance,’ means ‘change,’ - a complete, fundamental change of a
person’s thought, feeling, and desires, i.e., his inner spiritual rebirth. For
this reason repentance is called a ‘second rebirth,’ or a ‘second Baptism’ (see the Order of Confession in The Book of Needs).
Behold, this is the repentance which the Lord awaits from us! He desires that we, Orthodox Russian people, change our lives in a fundamental way, to become, as it were, a new, a different people, better in all respects than we were hitherto.
With such repentance, such a fundamental change for the better, our present life, all our hopes for some better future, for our salvation, for the salvation and rebirth of our unhappy homeland, Russia, are vain.
And what are we, Orthodox Russian people in foreign lands, to repent of?
Oh, there is much that we should repent of!
First of all it is necessary to repent of the general sins of mankind, checking our life against the demands of God’s Law, even if only according to the Ten Commandments. (And for this it is necessary, of course, to know these Ten Commandments, something which - alas! - our contemporary generation cannot boast about). Many Russian people have completely ceased accusing themselves of sins, even those mostly clearly and evidently breaking these Ten Commandments, instead accounting the breaking of them as normal, widespread, and therefore in some sense excusable. They have no idea of the patristic saying that “the multitude of sinners does not save us.” Even if everyone around us sins, this does not serve as any justification for our own particular sins.
Furthermore, we have our own particular specific sins, for which undoubtedly God will call us to account, if we do not really repent of them.
Know that we, sons and daughters of Holy Russia, have the great good fortune to confess the one true, the one saving, Holy Orthodox Faith. Much has been given us. And to whom much is given, from him much will be required (See Luke 12:48).
Our most important and basic sin is that we have forgotten that we are living in foreign countries, in ‘far lands,’ and here in exile and in the diaspora, we have begun to feel ‘at home.’ Many of us, - alas! - many already do not want to take into account why we are found abroad, besides which, to be at ease in their countries and attempting to come to terms with their circumstances, we are merging completely with life around us, we are assimilating, slavishly imitating all the people among whom we live, only considering how in some way we might best get established and improve our material success, our well-being, in our new circumstances, and for this end we are ready to sacrifice our spiritual values, including even our Faith itself.
Among us there are some who care about the salvation and rebirth of Russia and about returning to Russia and they even set up various types of political and patriotic organizations with this aim, periodically holding assemblies and organizing conferences. But in the majority of cases, they sin in that they do not desire to understand why such a dreadful catastrophe befell our homeland, and they continue to live aboard entertaining those very same thoughts and feelings, and with the temper which accompanies them, which once brought that catastrophe about. They do not desire to bring about within themselves that unique and saving fundamental change; they do not really want to repent. And therefore, for all their sometimes, maybe, very good and sincere intentions and efforts, they are left with still-born fruit, which leads to nothing and never brings anything positive, leaving behind for all only the bitter after-taste of disillusionment.
The whole life of contemporary Christians is in all ways completely contrary to that which true Christianity requires of us. At the present time, people, bearing the name ‘Christian,’ in the majority of cases, do not even think about what this name implies and they do not strive even a little to fulfill the Gospel precepts, but lead their lives in a completely pagan way. And for this reason it is now not possible for us to live ‘like everyone else.’ Now, more than ever before in the past, it is imperative that we bear in mind the teaching of the holy Apostle James: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? And so, he who has his own ideals so that he might persuade himself and set himself at rest is he “whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
The present-day dissipation and light-mindedness of life in the world is so mindless that it cannot be reconciled with Christianity. These two things are mutually completely at odds. There is no such thing as a minimal Christianity, which might in some way be reconciled with con- temporary dissolute worldly life, which has made as its one purpose the achievement of the greatest possible comfort in life, along with every kind of pleasure and enjoyment.
He who wants really desires to repent must resolutely reject the evil worldly wisdom of the present times. Either / or! There is no midway, and there cannot be one. Either we are sons of God, or we are “sons of opposition,” “sons of perdition.” To constantly amuse oneself, going to restaurants and cinemas and other places of entertainment - all this is clean contrary to true Christianity, and these things he, who has firmly resolved to commit himself truly to repent before God, and not simply in an exterior or hypocritical way, cannot stand to do.
From this point of view, the incessant instances of the countless balls and suppers, events and entertaining gatherings, even when they go under the name of “benefits,” in which so much of our life in the diaspora is now submerged, especially here in America, goes completely against any true repentance.
The most dreadful thing is that in the life of contemporary people falsehood enters in and gets very firmly established there. Present-day Christians lie before God, they lie to each other, they even lie to themselves. The are always “playing a role,” attempting to present themselves as something they are not. They are concerned only with outward respectability, “neglecting the tabernacle fashioned by God.” as the Great Canon [Ode 2] expresses it.
And within this there is an even greater sorrow: that they do not even want to keep Christ’s commandments and without the least fear they out Church rules, and in doing so, they think, in a completely unChristian way, that they are justified in all their unbridled behaviour and by their own mind-set.
Self-love and pride literally infect everything - all of contemporary life.
But the most dreadful thing, of course, is that this is not simply sinning against morality, which to one to degree or another has always had its place in people’s lives, but this is the basic sin of the present day, which hitherto never manifested itself with such force, which never before enclosed people, even those calling themselves Christians, in such a broad sweep, which never hitherto so boldly raised its head, vigorously captivating for itself even those who, evidently, wanted to resist it, but also did not find within themselves the strength to go against the general flow.
This is the sin of Apostasy, or of capitulation.
And it is an all too frequent manifestation today. People call themselves Christian, sometimes even ministers of the Church of Christ, and in reality they are apostates. They have surrendered their souls to the coming Antichrist and they actively participate in his grandiose scheme, now underway throughout the whole world, - the preparation for the kingdom of Antichrist on earth.
And it is especially painful and bitter that many Russian people not only continue to live abroad with those dispositions which led Russia to Bolshevism, but under the influence of the foreign and heterodox environment around them they go even further, wholly engaging in the headlong course of the Apostasy. For such people repentance is particularly difficult. Without the special action of the Grace of God upon their souls it may even be unattainable.
This sin is particularly enticing, because it promises so much - money, career prospects, and all earthly good things, and at the same time it is very proficient at hiding itself under the disguise of an outwardly good appearance.
He who actually, and not in words only, desires to repent, must exhibit full obedience to the Holy Church in all things - to her teachings and to her practice, to her age-old usages which are founded the sacred Scriptures and Holy Tradition, on the teaching of the Holy Fathers, those Pillars of Orthodoxy and strugglers for Christian piety. With resolution he must reject all those pretensions, which are so full of pride and self- confidence, which seek to ‘reform’ or to ‘correct’ things in the Church, or to ‘infuse’ some ‘new, living current’ within her, and so on. No kind of innovation, no kind of modernism should be able to find any place in our Church, more especially that modernism which follows the trends of the anti-Christian ideas of this present evil age, which, while they appear one thing, conceal any sign of their ideological aspirations, such as the ecumenical union of all faith confessions, or universal government headed by a one-world administration.
“Not all that glistens is gold,” says a good Russian proverb [and an English one too! - transl.] And we, the Christians must understand that Satan himself, when it proves necessary for him, can “take on the appearance of an Angel of light,” and therefore it is no marvel “if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).
He who desires actually to repent must, with all resolution, tear asunder the entangling nets of the contemporary world, which, with a determination which cannot be countered, drag all deeper and deeper into the abyss of Apostasy, from which there is no way out.
This we, Orthodox Russian people, must recognise within ourselves, if we are really seeking to achieve true repentance, if we sincerely desire salvation for ourselves and for our homeland, Russia, and with that of the whole of mankind, of the whole world, for as must be manifest to us all now, the fate of the whole world at the present time is closely bound up with the fate of our homeland, Russia.*
But woe to us, if within us there begins to speak a feeling of proud self-justification; if we do not begin to desire to recognise within our- selves all the various guilty things enumerated above. “Pride and self-justification,” according to the teachings of the Holy Fathers, “darken the mind” (Abba Dorotheus: Questions and Answers, question 82).
“Guard against pride and self-justification,” the great elder John the Prophet teaches, “for they impede repentance” (answer 82).
Unfortunately there are among us Russians, those who not only do not recognise the whole depth of their fall, but with a kind of incomprehensible delusion, even yield to some sort of unfounded delight, with self-esteem and trust in themselves and in others, assuming that everything is alright with them.
Such a disposition is completely alien to true Christianity. We must not congratulate ourselves, lest this bring upon us the most severe judgment. Lulling the conscience, into which groundless fantasies have entered, is the very greatest evil, which cuts off at the very root every possibility of true repentance.
Before all else, true repentance depends upon humility, a complete and unreserved humility before the commandments of the Gospel, before the canons and precepts of the Church, a readiness completely and without dissimulation to submit to them. True repentance is completely alien to any sort of pretence or claims of self-determination. It is an inexorable awareness within oneself of one’s own sinfulness. Only when it is such can it be active and salvific.
What then? Shall we embark upon this road of real repentance? Shall we thus observe the Dormition Fast which is upon us? Shall we resolve in the most fundamental way to change our life for the better?
Or, as before, shall we take life easily, disregarding all that has been said above, until we are struck at the inescapable dread hour of God’s retribution which is approaching, when instantaneously all our present “well-being” will fall away, and awful destruction shall befall us, not only a temporal one, but one eternal.** May it not be!
* This thought might strike some of our readers as odd or unrealistic. In fact, Archbishop Averky could have been thinking of two things. He was writing in 1960, when the Cold War was at its coldest. Politically the fate of the whole world then was very much bound up with that of what was commonly called Russia. However, on the deeper level, he was more probably considering Russia’s classic claim to be the Third Rome. This concept has, unfortunately, been bastardized by extreme nationalists, and is often presented as if it were a reason for pride, or some kind of national superiority. In fact, it was a calling to a ministry within the Church, that Russia should serve as a beacon of Orthodoxy to the rest of the world, and thus her fate would be very much bound up with the fate of the whole world. If she would lead in showing the way of repentance, then there would be hope that other peoples would follow.
** This, of course, might refer to the end of the world, but also applies at the time of death of every Orthodox individual, something we shall all experience.
The New Calendarists with no St. Peter's fast
THE NEW CALENDARISTS - WITH NO ST PETER'S FAST!
By the Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky of Jordanville
ACCORDING to an ancient precept of our Holy Church, which derives from the Apostolic times themselves, on the Monday after the Sunday of All Saints, which follows that of Pentecost, a fast begins, which bears the name the Apostles’ Fast, or St Peter’s Fast, because it serves as a preparation for the great feast celebrated in honour of the Pre-eminent Apostles Peter and Paul, kept on 29th June. When it starts depends on the day that Holy Pascha is celebrated, and its duration varies from year to year; when Pascha is early it lasts six weeks; when it is as late as can be only a week and a day.
This year [He was evidently speaking in 1956, when Pascha fell on St George’s day - transl.], with its comparatively late Pascha, the Local Orthodox Churches which shortly after the First World War adopted the new style calendar, are completely deprived of this fast, because on the new calendar the day of the commemoration of the Holy Chiefs of the Apostles Peter and Paul falls on the Friday before the Sunday of All Saints, and so, in this way, this fast is completed obliterated. The same thing always occurs when Pascha falls on 20th April or later; then for the new calendarists the St Peter fast disappears.
Is such a thing tolerable?
In no way! The Church’s establishment of a fast in honour of the Holy Apostles, who themselves by fasting and prayer prepared themselves for the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world, is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions themselves: “After Pentecost, keep one week more festival, and after that fast, for it is reasonable to rejoice for the gift of God, and to fast after that relaxation for the flesh” (Book 5, chapter 19 or 20). Beginning in the fourth century, we find a whole raft of patristic references which emphasize the great importance which this fast enjoyed among the Christians of that time. Saints Athanasius the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Leo the Great and Theodoretus of Cyrrhus make mention of it. St Leo the Great speaks of the meaning and significance of the Apostles’ Fast in a particularly thorough and intelligent way: “After the prolonged festival of Pentecost [i.e. the forty days from Pascha to Pentecost Sunday and the week after - transl.], the fast is especially necessary, so that by struggling therein we may cleanse our mind and be deemed worthy to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Homily 76). “The present festival, beloved,” he says in another homily, “which the Holy Spirit hallowed by His descent, is routinely followed by a fast for all the people, which has been beneficially instituted for the healing of soul and body, and which we are required to observe with due reverence. For we must be in no doubt that, after the Apostles were filled with power from on high according to the promise and the Spirit of Truth abode in their hearts, this teaching of spiritual restraint was, along with other mysteries of the heavenly doctrine, granted unto them, so that the heart purified by fasting, should be deemed worthy to receive the gifts of Grace. The Almighty, by His aid, was present with the disciples of Christ and the leaders of the emerging Church, established by God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but it was still impossible for them to contend against the persecutors’ forces and the furious threats of the dishonourable ones with their exhausted bodies and pampered flesh, because that which pleases the outer man harms the inner man, and on the contrary the reasoning soul is the more purified the more the flesh is kept in subjection. So, for the enlightenment of all the children of the Church, both by their example and by their precepts, they defined holy fasting as the very beginning of the struggle for Christ, that having to fight against spiritual wickedness, we might each have the armour of abstinence with which we might slay sinful desires.... For this reason an unchanging and salutary practice was established, that after the holy and joyous days which we celebrate in honour of the Lord, risen from the dead and then ascended into the Heavens, and after the reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there comes an appointed fast. This practice must be kept assiduously, so that those gifts which are now bestowed by God upon the Church might remain ours” (Homily 74).
“Fasting is enjoined,” St Leo explains, “so that we be kept from carelessness, into which it extremely easy to fall when for a long period we are given allowance with regard to the foods we use, because then the field of our flesh is not being constantly tilled. It then easily brings forth tares and thistles, and it will yield such fruit, as would not be gathered into the granary, but would be committed to the flames” (Homily 4).
And this is what the Blessed Simeon of Thessalonica has to say about the Apostolic precept: “The fast of the Apostles was established in their honour so that through them we might be deemed worthy of many good things, and they are manifest to us as practicers and teachers of fasting, even unto death itself persevering in restraint. To this even the Latins bear witness against their will, honouring the Apostles on the days of their memorials with fasting; but we, in adhering to the Apostolic Constitutions compiled by Clement, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit keep one week as a feast and then, following after them, by fasting we honour the Apostles who enjoining fasting upon us” (Answers to Various Questions).
All that has been said above, as we see, the new calendarists disdain, disregarding even the anathema which was pronounced by the twelfth century Patriarch of Antioch, Theodore Balsamon, who in one of his epistles to the Antiochian flock writes: “From this day and thereafter until the feast of Peter and Paul, all the faithful, that is the lay people and the monastics, are required to fast, and let those who do not keep the fast be excommunicated from the assembly of the Orthodox Christians.”
For all genuinely believing Christians, for whom “Christianity” is not just an empty name devoid of inner content, but is an active following of the teaching of the Gospel, one which demands a struggle, it is indispensable that they bear in mind that the introduction of the new calendar into the Orthodox Church was only one of a whole raft of reforms dreamed up by Meletius IV, the Patriarch of Constantinople, of sorry memory. Along with the new calendar among these reforms, the modernists, who breathe the same spirit as our Living Churchmen and Renovationists,* have in mind and cherish hopes to introduce a married episcopate, second marriage for clergymen, the abolition of monasticism, the abolition of the fasts, the shortening of the Divine services, permitting the clergy to wear secular clothes and have the appearance of lay people,** and so on.
Is it not manifest to each and every Christian who soberly regards these issues that all these reforms, including the new calendar which has in fact done away with one of the fasts, are only necessary so that within Christianity the commandments of Christ the Saviour Himself might be brought to nought, for He said that the way is straight and narrow, and He certified that the broad and wide way leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13)?
Who then is revealed as the inspirer of these reforms?
Translated from the Homilies and Speeches (1951-1960) of the Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky.
* The Living Church movement in Post-Revolutionary Russia was backed by the atheistic regime, because it helped cause division and confusion in the Church. For a time it gained some ascendancy but was defeated by the piety of the people and the steadfastness of the confessing hierarchs.
** This refers to clergymen trimming their beards and hair to look like laymen, and presumably, at least on occasion, hide their calling.
The Shepherd Magazine February 2012
THE FOLLOWING WORK, translated from the sermons of Archbish- op Averky is undated, but is published in a collection of his works dated only 1961 - 1968. Internal evidence suggests it was written in 1964, when, in early January, Pope Paul VI and Œcumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I met in the Holy Land. The speci c instances that he mentions may therefore be a little dated; however, the teaching that he gives is timeless. And if he expresses deep concern over the inroads of ecumenism in that period, how much more greatly would he have been distressed by its progress in our times?
May One Speak of the Union of Christians Apart from Grace and Truth?
By the Blessed & Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky of Jordanville
All ye that in Christ have been baptized, Christ have ye put on.
WE HAVE JUST celebrated the Great Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, or the Theophany. Wondrous is this festival! “The the Christian mysteries,” says the holy hierarch Theophan [the Recluse] of Vysha, concerning this feast, “shine forth here with their Divine light, and they illumine the minds and hearts of those who keep this great celebration with faith” (Thoughts for Every Day of the Year). It is for this reason that the very feast itself is called the “illumination” in our Church Typicon.
But what does this illumination consist of? It comprises the illumining and sanctification of our minds and hearts through Grace and Truth, brought to earth for the salvation of people by the Incarnate Only-Begotten Son of God Himself, as Christ’s beloved disciple, Saint John the Theologian, bears witness at the very start of his Gospel: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us... full of grace and truth.”
“And of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace; for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1: 14, 16-17).
When Christ was born, only a few people knew of this. Only on the day of His Baptism did He clearly and openly appear for that great ministry of His, for which He had become incarnate, and therefore, in her hymns, the Holy Church calls the festival of the Baptism or Christ, the Theophany, the “most radiant” and the “most glorious” day, even in comparison with that most joyous feast for us the Nativity of Christ, and, exulting, she chants: “In the Jordan River’s streams, the Saviour, Who is grace and truth, hath openly appeared to all, and hath enlightened them that once slept in the shadow and the dark; for He hath come and shone forth, the Light unapproachable” (Exapostilarion, 3rd tone).
But what is exactly is the “grace” and “truth,” imparted to us on the day of Theophany?
What exactly happens that is important to us on this “most radiant” and “most glorious” festival?
On this day, the sinless Christ accepted baptism from John in the waters of the Jordan, so that in His Person He might wash away the sins of all mankind, taken upon Himself in His inexpressible love for man.
On this day, the Master of heaven and of earth bows his neck and receives baptism from a servant, so that He might give an example of humility by observing the rule of baptism established by Him for all people, so that He might thus fulfill “all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15) and by His own example sanctify this great mysterion of spiritual rebirth, without which it is impossible to enter into the Heavenly Kingdom.
On this day, the Messiah Christ first manifested Himself to the world as the beloved Only-Begotten Son of God, in Whom there rests the favour of God the Father and in Whom the Holy Spirit rests. His measureless humility opened wide the heavens and clearly revealed to the people the formerly hidden mystery of the Three Persons of the Divinity: Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.
On this day, Jesus Christ, having reached the age of majority according to the law, in that He had reached thirty years of age, enters upon His public ministry to the race of man; having remained until this time in obscurity, today He is manifest to the world and His light is signed upon us, illumining the people “that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death” with a mystical illuminations from on high.
In what does this “illumination” consist?
In what we received today in the holy Apostle [reading]: In the Jordan waters, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).
Thus, our Saviour, Grace and Truth, Christ appeared that He might proclaim to us liberty from sin and the beginning of a new life - a life according to Grace and Truth.
Believing with our whole heart in this Divine Truth, brought to us by the Incarnate Son of God, and accepting this saving Grace in the Mysterion of Baptism, we die unto sin and we are born again unto a new, pure, holy and God-pleasing life, we are clothed upon with Christ and we become one with Him through Grace.
How can we dare to sin, if we have died to sin, if we have been clothed with Christ and become one with Him?
In truth, sin is now something completely foreign to us Christians; it is something wholly not our own - it is a rude attack upon our nature reborn in Christ: we cannot sin at will. It is not in vain that the holy Apostle informs us: “as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death, we are buried with him by baptism into death, knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him, likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord” (see Rom. 6:3-11).
Thus, the holy Apostles ends this instruction: “Let not sin there- fore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof, neither yield ye up your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield ye yourselves up unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:12-13).
“Sin shall not have dominion over you,” the Apostles concludes and he explains: “For ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
From all of the above, it should be abundantly clear that where there is neither grace nor truth, there is no freedom from sin; where they disdain grace and truth, there they involuntarily sin and excuse sin, and there there is no Christianity.
But grace and truth abide only in the true Church, namely that Church which was founded by the incarnate Only-Begotten Son of God, and which was granted the great promise, that the gates of hades should not prevail against her (Matt. 16:18), and which, it follows, always was, is and will be until the end of the age, and does not stand in need of being founded anew.
It is from this precise viewpoint that we must understand and assess all that is happening in the world now.
And it is because of this that we cannot but be horrified at that which is accurately called “a sign of the times,” and is in actuality a terrible, terrifying, ominous sign that we, who witness it and see it, behold who are living through our dreadful times.
We have in mind those “fruits” which the so-called “Ecumenical Movement” has produced, particularly now the meeting that has taken place, and the “symbolical” kiss, between the Pope of Rome, Paul VI, and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I. [Now in 2012, nearly forty years on, we could add countless other examples of meetings, common prayers, “sacramental hospitality,” to this one instance that Archbishop Averky cites - translator].
It is not the meeting itself, such as it was, that horrifies us, but its inner content, which encloses within something spiritually unhealthy, at root rejecting authentic Christianity, something of a fully ecumenical bent, which was so clearly and powerfully exposed in Patriarch Athenagoras words themselves, when he spoke in a sermon before setting out for the Holy Land and for this meeting with the Pope: “I will meet the Pope and embrace him as a brother, leaving aside theological discussions.”
“What is this?” - it only remains for us to ask: “Extreme mindlessness or a conscious betrayal?”
Did we really so quarrel with the Pope that it was necessary to be reconciled, demonstrating before the whole world this “reconciliation” with brotherly embraces?
Or does Patriarch Athenagoras desire to abound more in love that the very “Apostle of love” himself, the beloved disciple of the Lord, Saint John the Theologian, who tells us in a teaching which stands for all times: “If there come any unto you and bring not this (the true, Apostolic teaching of faith and piety) doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither greet him” (2 John 10)?
Is Patriarch Athenagoras not a theologian? If he really did not study theology and is not aware of the fundamental dogmatic truths of Orthodox Christian teaching, nor how they are manifested in the spiritual and moral life of each and every Orthodox Christian, is it not a mistake that he bears such a high calling?
Can it really be that our separation from the Roman Catholics was caused by some purely personal feelings of hostility, by some personal ill-will?
Or is it that our profound divergence from them, being dogmatic as also of a spiritual and moral character, only came about through some abstract disagreement of learned theologians, divorced from real life, mindlessly quarrelling between themselves? And was it necessary only to “make peace” with the Pope, so that all these disagreements and “discussions” could be so lightly settled?
Truly, one could only marvel at such infantile naïvety on the part of the “First Hierarch of Orthodoxy” (as the Patriarch of Constantinople considers himself by tradition, it being once the [premier] see of the world empire), if only this apparent naïvety did not conceal something much more dreadful.
All this is exactly in the spirit of authentic ecumenism - ecumenism without a mask. Our Orthodox “ecumenists” have for a long time persistently assured us that they had entered the ecumenical movement with one purpose - which outwardly appears wholly good - “to witness before the heterodox about the truth of Holy Orthodoxy,” “to reveal to them the depth and beauty of Holy Orthodoxy,” and thus “to draw them to embrace Holy Orthodoxy, from which they had fallen away.”
And how has it turned out in fact?
The complete opposite thing has come about: not the return to Holy Orthodoxy of those who had fallen away, but the tacit, “symbolical” recognition of the unimportance and the insubstantiality of all that which distinguishes Orthodoxy from heterodoxy, that is and that caused a complete falling away from Her, and therefore also from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by Christ the Saviour, of Roman Catholicism and thereafter of Protestantism and the other, now numberless, sects and every possible self-directed confessional entity, which without any rationale lays claims for itself to the name “Church of Christ.”
Grace and truth, which abide only in the true Church, which has received the promise of Christ that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against Her, are, apparently, completely forgotten!
And how strange it is to hear from the “First Hierarch of the Holy Orthodox Church” that all the distinguishing characteristics of Holy Orthodoxy, which form a definite barrier between it and Roman Catholicism, are no longer to be the subject of theological discussion.
The dogmas of Holy Orthodoxy are not somehow abstractions, out of touch with the life of truth, such that we can consider them or recognise them as inconsequential.
The dogmas - the great and saving truths of the Faith, were re- vealed to us by the incarnate Son of God; they are His Divine words. And these “words, that I speak unto you,” as He Himself says, “they are Spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
How can we consider them as having no substance in the great work of the union of all Christians, which can only come about in grace and in truth?
How can one think that this task can consist only of “brotherly” embraces and kisses?
And are such kisses not those of Judas, if behind them there is concealed the betrayal of grace and truth?
And furthermore the fundamental difference between us and the Roman Catholics and all the others, who profess to call themselves Christians, obtains precisely in spirit and in life.
It is awful to say, but apparently for the contemporary ecumenists, in whose number one can think to include both Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, even Baptism itself, which was inaugurated for all who desire to become Christians by Christ the Saviour Himself on the great day of Theophany, is not a great Mysterion (sacrament), which opens to us the entrance into the Heavenly Kingdom, but just a empty subject of “theological discussion,” devoid of any significant meaning. And therefore for eternal salvation, in the view that is precisely theirs, it is not a necessity to be baptized and to be clothed in Christ. For their talk now is of a general union not only of Christians, but with Jews, though they do not recognise Christ the Saviour as the Messiah - (concerning this the notorious proposal of the Vatican Council testified regarding the Jews and the amicable regard that the Pope now has for the state of Israel) - and with the Muslims and with the pagans. [Again this tendency has gone much further than when Archbishop Averky wrote, with pagan ceremonies being part and parcel of WCC and other Ecumenical Assemblies (see News Section below) - translator].
• • •
They speak and write more and more nowadays about the one, common, universal religion for all peoples, just as they do about a one world government.
• • •
They speak and write more and more nowadays about the one, common, universal religion for all peoples, just as they do about a one world government.
The union of all peoples, “at any price,” and “in spite of everything,” is required, as we have long since known well from the prophesies of the ancient Fathers of the Church, so that in the last days all peoples will be united under one authority, and it will attempt to substitute another for Christ.
Truly, even now it is fearful to live in the world in the midst of such anti-Christ untruth, such deception, such falsehood and hypocrisy, through which the servants of the coming Anti-Christ strive even now to replace in the consciences of the people and to obliterate the true Church.
But, God is with us! And “the fear of them we shall not fear, neither shall we be troubled!” For we know that the “gates of Hades” shall not overcome the true Church. It remains only for us to adhere to this true Church until the very end, to draw from her the grace and truth of Christ, and always to bear in mind that we, who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ, and therefore we must live worthily of our high calling as Christians, as ones dead unto sin, and raised again to a new, God-pleasing life - life in Christ.